We’ve all been there. End of the semester approaches, and you’ve not passed a single quiz. The paycheck doesn’t stretch to reach the end of the month that seems to come ever quicker. Constant tension from the boss, bickering family members, and the stony-faced landlord keeps your stomach in knots. Your daily to-do list is buried under a pile of unpaid bills, and you don’t have time to sort them because you can’t find your keys.
Stress hits all of us, especially as we hurtle toward promises of increased productivity. Along with the satisfaction that comes from constant activity, the unpleasant side effect of stress lurks behind every good intention, like the fine print at the end of a pharmaceutical ad.
Since stress is an invisible threat that troubles us as individuals behind closed doors, it can be easy to overlook. Unfortunately, there comes a time when the symptoms of stress are unavoidable. If you’ve experienced an unexplained combination of the any of the following side effects, there’s a good chance that you are one of the millions of people who have fallen prey to the debilitating condition called stress.
1. Sore Jaw
While it may seem odd that your jaw is sore without any noticeable toothache, it’s actually a symptom of stress. Fear and anxiety tends to hunker right at that joint in your jaw where your teeth clench. Whether you’re trying to endure a lecture over a mistake you didn’t make or you’re stuck in traffic and you’re already late, your teeth often pay the price of your impatience.
Unfortunately, this tendency to thoughtlessly punish your jaw doesn’t end when you go
to sleep. For many people, stress troubles even the sleeping hours, and it’s evidenced by jaw grinding. If you ever hear a sound like a mouse squeaking rhythmically in the room at night, chances are your spouse is stressed, and those grinding teeth are paying the price.
2. Fever Blisters
If you’ve ever observed that it seems the only time you get a fever blister is when you really don’t want one, it might be because you’re one of souls prone to developing fever blisters when you’re under stress. If you don’t want an unsightly blister on your lip on your wedding day, make sure to relax and destress before the big day. Of course, if you’ve never gotten a fever blister, give thanks – not everyone does.
3. Hair Loss
While it’s a common thing for women who have had a baby recently to experience some measure of hair loss, for most of us, it can be quite unsettling to pull clumps of hair out for no apparent reason.
Hair loss because of stress happens for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it’s because the body senses anxiety and sends signals to your hair follicles telling them to suspend hair growth for a season. In a few months, hair will fall out, but it will grow back. For other people, hair loss can be a result of nervous tugging or twirling their hair because of nerves. In either case, losing hair can be a stressful discovery.
4. Upset Stomach
Stress can do a number on your guts or lack thereof. If you walk around with your abs constantly tight–without the benefit of a vigorous workout–it could be that stress is doing a number on your midsection. It’s not a healthy workout, either.
Stress can be the culprit behind ulcers, constipation, and diarrhea. It can make you nauseous, destroy your appetite, and can give you a major stomachache. If you’ve been concerned about a chronic stomach disorder, your stress level might be worth mentioning to your doctor.
5. Unaccounted-for Sickness
When you’re overcome by fear and anxiety, your immune system pays the price. Colds, flus, strange bugs that waylay you without warning are all calling cards of stress. When they come calling, it’s time to slow down, rest, and give thanks for the blessing of another day. Gratitude is a powerful stress buster.
Stress runs a tiresome cycle. It can keep you awake for hours, robbing you of the rejuvenating rest your body craves that would enable it to conquer many of your stressful problems. If you suffer from insomnia, follow these tips. You might be surprised to find that your troubles seem small in comparison, and maybe you’ll even drift off to sleep.
7. Weight Gain
While stress sometimes manifests itself by vomiting or nausea, it can also cause significant weight gain. That’s because it’s a defense mechanism for all of us to eat; food sustains us. When we feel threatened, the natural response is to run to the place that gives us sustenance. Unfortunately, this misplaced dependence on food and stress eating can cause even more stress as our weight increases and saps our strength and confidence, leading us even deeper into the pit of stress that started the whole mess.
When you have an army of nagging issues in the back of your mind to be resolved, it can crowd out other matters. If you’re worrying that your forgetfulness is a sign of trouble ahead, relax. Don’t let the symptom snowball. There’s a good chance your forgetfulness is nothing more than a sign you need to rest, so rest!
Headaches are a common sign that you may be over stressed, but many people miss the warnings to slow down, fearing their headaches are caused by much more malevolent roots. The truth is that tension originating in the neck muscles can cause monster headaches and even migraines, and the best medicine is to minimize the stress. Rub your shoulders, soak out the tension, and say goodbye to those hateful headaches.
10. Strange Dreams
When you are overcome with stress, the excess anxiety can spill over into your dreams. When this happens, don’t fear. Even the sage cautioned us to relax, saying in an ancient proverb, “A dream cometh through the multitude of business.” If a multitude of troubles are disrupting your sleep, just remember that this too shall pass. Count your blessings, go back to sleep, and awake refreshed with no cares to dampen your enthusiasm.
Dominique is a health and productivity blogger that writes for True Stress Management.